Saturday, January 10, 2009

Calm Things is indeed a gift

...in the fullest sense of the word. Calm Things by Shawna Lemay is the most beautifully written, generous and honest collection of personal essays that I've read in ages. Thought-provoking to say the least. Because the clean, pitch-perfect prose never calls attention to itself, I was left looking at a world through Lemay's eyes and with Lemay's clear, wide-angled vision. What I saw was a well-rounded world. A moving world. A world I both know and don't know.

In my last post I had described this book as a gift from me to me, but I didn't know then how true this was. Amazingly enough, the second last essay in the book, titled "Of Coffee Pots, Tea Cups, Asparagus and the Like," actually looks closely at "the gift." I must admit, though I've been the lucky recipient of countless gifts, the matter of giving and receiving is, unfortunately, something to which I've given little more than superficial thought. Lemay refers to a number of books throughout, but it's the books mentioned in this essay that I will seek first. And the nests! Because of this essay I know I'll never look at a nest in the same way again. And that's a good thing.

While I'm certainly no expert on still life, I am a visual artist and a writer, and it's the world of the artist and writer that Lemay presents that rings so true. In her words I found a clearer reflection of myself. Of my way of life. Of my joys, my frustrations, my dreams. And when one sees such a clear reflection, one can't help but look more closely.

I wanted to read this book slowly. Take my time. Think. But no, I couldn't put it down. I finished reading Calm Things last night before I went to bed. So there I was in the wee hours, glowing in the dark, still thinking, feeling more alive and more at peace than I have in quite some time.

This morning I looked at the title essay again and gave more thought to what Lemay says about details and connections. Oddly enough, when I took a break to refill my coffee and check Facebook, I saw that I'd received an invitation to a reading featuring Tim Lilburn, along with Shawna Lemay and Kimmy Beach on Monday, March 23, 2009. The evening will begin at 8:00 pm and will take place in Room 101 of Michael Hall at St. Peter's College, Muenster, SK. I hope the weather is good. It's a long way, but I want to go. I know and admire the work of all three and have met Lilburn and Beach before. It would be wonderful to hear them again. And it would be wonderful to finally meet Lemay and hear her read from this incredible book.

Now I'll go dust my studio. It's calling. I think I'm ready. It's time.

12 comments:

tracy said...

Well, if yer done the book, you know my address. You've more than convinced me to read it.

Oh, and I could use some dusting here as well.

Brenda Schmidt said...

Ha! Not so fast! This is just the first reading. I will be going through the book again. Slowly. And I will be googling every name, every text and every painting mentioned. And then I'll sit and stare and see what happens. This all will take some time. However, if I do make it to the reading, which we've already penciled in, I will be sure to pick you up a signed copy!

As far as your dust goes, you're on your own! I have work to do! :)

Ariel Gordon said...

So we should expect a blissed-out painting B to make an appearance?

Brenda Schmidt said...

Ha! You know me well! :)

Shawna Lemay said...

My turn to be overwhelmed! This is so generous Brenda - thank you so much. It will be wonderful to meet you at St. Pete's, weather permitting!
S.

Ariel Gordon said...

Also, Calm Things is both startling and calming. And I would heartily recommend it.

Wish I could attend the reading...

Brenda Schmidt said...

My pleasure, Shawna. This is precisely why I love the internet so much. I search and search and eventually I am rewarded as the odd time, like this, I come across a voice that resonates.

allanmcdougall said...

Gift giving was one of the original subjects studied by early structural anthropologists like Claude Levi-Strauss. It has been an important act in tribal cultures for thousands of year . . . although I'm not sure there's any research on neolithic self gift giving ;)

Either way, I'll check out the book.

For your poets, have you read Christian Bok's Eunoia? I'm reading it when I take a break from my research and it's really fun. I love reading it out loud.

Brenda Schmidt said...

Cool. I'll have to check out Levi-Strauss.

Ya, Bok's book is certainly quite the accomplishment. Cancult posted good news about Bok and Eunoia recently. And in this Cancult post is a video of Bok reading selections from the book.

Kimmy said...

nice of you to mention the old Kimster, B! it promises to be a fun night!

Kimmy said...

oh, and you'll HEART Shawna. i sure do...

Brenda Schmidt said...

The old Kimster! ha! I really hope to be there. It's still in the plans, weather and all else permitting.